There is increasing evidence within the literature that the decreased susceptibility of tumour cells to stimuli that induce apoptosis can be linked to their inherently increased redox potential. The review primarily focuses on the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway, and the multiple points along this signalling pathway that may be redox regulated. The PI3-kinase/Akt pathway can influence a cells' sensitivity to death inducing signals, through direct manipulation of apoptosis regulating molecules or by regulating the activity of key transcription factors. Proteins involved in the control of apoptosis that are directly regulated by the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway include caspase-9, Bad and the transcription factor GSK-3β. Lately, it is becoming increasingly obvious that phosphatases are a major counter balance to the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway. Phosphatases such as PP2A and PP1α can dephosphorylate signalling molecules within the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway, blocking their activity. It is the balance between the kinase activity and the phosphatase activity that determines the presence and strength of the PI3-kinase/Akt signal. This is why any protein modifications that hinder dephosphorylation can increase the tumours survival advantage. One such modification is the oxidation of the sulphydryl group in key cysteine residues present within the active site of the phosphatases. This highlights the link between the increased redox stress in tumours with the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway. This review will discuss the various sources of reactive oxygen species within a tumour and the effect of these radicals on the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway. © 2008.
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